Mara Phones – the first “Made in Africa” smartphones – manufactured in Rwanda and South Africa, will be the South African Government’s preferred devices for the next 5 years. This is after a recent awarding of the RT15-2021 contract that deals with the supply of communication services to South Africa’s government.

Under the contract, South African Telcos will provide the government with mobile services like unlimited data packages, plus voice and SMS packages, at discounted prices in an arrangement that’s meant to contain the government’s spend on communication. In addition to providing these services, Telco’s will also provide mobile devices, accessories, and repair programs.

The contract gives priority to locally made devices, and it is on that basis that Mara Phones – with a manufacturing plant in KwaZulu-Natal – will be offered by all Telcos who will be working with the government. This is a great step both for the African continent – whose governments need to do more in terms of enabling local manufacturers – and for Mara Phones who will now be relied upon by SA’s government.

Back in 2019, Moses Kemibaro in a blog post shared 6 things Mara needed to do so as to have a significant impact on the smartphone industry in Africa. In the closing remarks, he says, “(Mara) could even work directly with African Governments to ensure Mara Phones become the ‘official’ work smartphone for civil servants.” Here we are a couple of years later with this just the same sort of partnership. So for the company, things might be going quite well.

As a person who was very excited about Mara devices from the beginning, I am quite disappointed a few years down the line both by Mara, and by my government.

I am yet to see Mara devices locally thanks to both Mara’s apparent lack of interest in the market, plus the quite steep prices. I am also yet to see any significant coverage of the devices in terms of reviews online.

I wish they had some sort of presence in a country like Kenya, or even Nigeria. I know from their online website we are free to purchase any of their devices, but I am not sure I can trust the delivery process. They need to do more in terms of reach, marketing, and convincing. Hopefully, the SA government contract enables them to raise more confidence, finance expansion to more regions, and have very good customer support for all customers who may buy from different locations.

After the announcement of Mara opening a manufacturing plant in Rwanda, I’d hoped to see something similar happen in Kenya. Either by Mara themselves, or by other smartphone companies. But with reports like these, such dreams remain dreams.

Speaking on the new contract, Sylvester Taku, Managing Director of Mara Phones SA said, “(This) is a huge boost to South Africa’s local economy and employment, and it demonstrates the Government’s and the network operators’ absolute faith in us as South Africa’s flagship smartphone brand. We are thrilled that our decision to manufacture locally will soon enable Mara Phones to invest even more in growing this awesome local brand and to positively contribute to the unemployment challenge in South Africa.”


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